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As Seen By Me by Lilian Bell

Part 4 out of 4

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ineffable manner in which her masters reproduced the idea of the
stern, cold pride of aloofness in these sublime types of perfect men,
wrung my heart with a sense of personal loss. I can imagine that
Pygmalion felt about Galatea as I felt that first hour in the
Acropolis. I can imagine that a woman who had loved with the passion
of her life a man of matchless integrity, of superb pride, of lofty
ideals, and who had lost that love irretrievably through a fault of
her own, whose gravity she first saw through his eyes when it was too
late, might have felt as I felt in that hour. All the agony of a
hopeless love for an art which never can return; all the sense of
personal loss for the purity which I was completely realizing for the
first time when it was too late; all the intense longing to have the
dead past live again, that I might prove myself more worthy of it,
assailed me with as mighty a force as ever the human heart could
experience and still continue to beat. The piteous fragments of this
lost art which remained--a few columns, the remnants of an immortal
frieze, the long lines of drapery from which the head and figure were
gone, the cold brow of the Hermes, the purity of his profile, the
proud curve of his lips, the ineffable wanness of his smile--I could
have cast myself at the foot of the Parthenon and wept over the
personal disaster which befell me in that hour of realization.

I never again wish to go through such an agony of emotion. The
Acropolis made the whole of Europe seem tawdry. I felt ashamed of the
gorgeous sights I had seen, of the rich dinners I had eaten, of the
luxuries I had enjoyed. I felt as if I would like to have the whole of
my past life fall away from me as a cast-off garment, and that if I
could only begin over I could do so much better with my life. I could
have knelt and beat my hands together in a wild, impotent prayer for
the past to be given into my keeping for just one more trial, one more
opportunity to live up to the beauty and holiness and purity I had
missed. When I looked up and saw the naked columns of the Parthenon
silhouetted against the sky, bereft of their capitals, ragged,
scarred, battered with the war of wind and weather and countless ages,
all about me the ruins seemed to say, "Your appreciation is in vain;
it is too late, too late!"

I have an indistinct recollection of stumbling into the carriage, of
driving down a steep road, of having the Pentelikon pointed out to me,
of knowing that near that mountain lay Marathon, of seeing the statue
of "Greece crowning Byron," but I heard with unhearing ears, I saw
with unseeing eyes. I had left my heart and all my senses in the
Acropolis. I believe that one who had left her loved one in the
churchyard, on the way home for the first time to her empty house, has
felt that dazed, unrealizing yet dumb heartache that I felt for days
after leaving the Parthenon.

It grew worse the farther I went away from it, and for two months I
have longed for Athens, Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis. I wanted to
stand and feast my soul upon the glories which were such living
memories, All through Egypt and up the Nile my one wish was to live
long enough and for the weeks to fly fast enough for me to get back to
Athens. Now I am here for the second time, and for as long as I wish
to remain.

We came sailing into the harbor just at sunset. Such a sunset! Such
blue in the Mediterranean! Such a soft haze on the purple hills! How
the gods must have loved Athens to place her in the garden spot of all
the earth; to pour into her lap such treasures of art, and to endow
her masters with power to create such an art! The approach is so
beautiful. Our big black Russian ship cut her way in utter silence
through the bluest of blue seas, with scarcely a ripple on the sunlit
waters, between amethyst islands studded with emerald fields, making
straight for that which was at one time the bravest, noblest, most
courageous, most beautiful country on earth.

"The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all except their sun is set."

Byron's statue stands in the square, surrounded by evergreens; his
picture is in the Ecole Polytechnique, and his memory and his songs
are revered throughout all Greece. How her beauty tore at his soul!
How her love for freedom met with an echo in his own heart! No wonder
he sang, with such a theme! It was enough to give a stone song and the
very rocks utterance.

It was Sunday, and as we drove through the clean, white streets,
feeling absolutely hushed with the beauty which assailed us on every
side, suddenly we heard the sound of music, mournful as a dirge--a
martial dirge. And presently we saw approaching us the saddest, most
touching yet awful procession I ever beheld. It was a military
funeral. First came the band; then came two men bearing aloft the
cover to the casket, wreathed in flowers and streaming with crape.
Then, borne in an open coffin by four young officers of his staff,
with bands of crape on their arms and knots of crape on their swords,
was the dead officer, an old, gray-haired general, dressed in the full
uniform of the Greek army, with his browned, wrinkled, deep-lined
hands crossed over his sword. The casket was shallow, and thus he was
exposed to the view of the gaping multitude, without even a glass lid
to cover his bronzed face, and with the glaring sun beating down upon
his closed eyes and noble gray head. Just behind him they led his
riderless black horse, with his master's boots reversed in the
stirrups and the empty saddle knotted with crape. It was at once
majestic, heartrending, and terrible. It unnerved me, and yet it was
not surprising to have such a moving spectacle greet me on my return
to Greece.

We drove over the same road from the Piraeus to Athens, but in the two
months of our absence they had mended a worn place in this road and
had unearthed a most beautiful sarcophagus, which they placed in the
national museum. The cement which held it on its pedestal was not yet
dry when we saw it. They do not know its date, nor the hand of the
sculptor who carved it, yet it needs no name to proclaim its beauty.

I have now seen Athens as I wanted to see it. I have seen it
consecutively. It was beautiful to begin with the Acropolis and to
take all day to examine just the frieze of the Parthenon. We had to
have written permission, which we received through the American
minister, to allow us to climb up on the scaffolding and get a near
view of it. But we did it, and we were close enough to touch it, to
lay our hands on it, and we waited hours for the sun to sink low
enough to creep between the giant beams and touch the metopes so that
we could photograph them. Of course, we could have bought photographs
of them, but it seemed more like possessing them to take them with our
own little cameras.

The central metope is the most beautiful and in the best state of
preservation of all this marvel from the hand of Phidias; yet the work
of destruction goes on, as only last year the head of the rider fell
and broke into a thousand pieces, so that only the horse, the figure,
and the electric splendor of his wind-blown garments floating out
behind him remain. There is so little of this frieze left that it
requires the full scope of the imagination, as one stands and looks at
it, to picture this triumphal procession of Pan-Athenians which every
four years formed at the Acropolis and wound majestically down through
the Sacred Way to the Temple of Mysteries to sacrifice to the goddess
in honor of Marathon and Salamis.

But we followed this road ourselves. We, too, took the Sacred Way. On
the loveliest day imaginable we drove along this smooth white road; we
saw the Bay of Salamis; we wound around the sweetheart curve of her
shore; the purple hills forming the cup which holds her translucent
waters are the background to this famous battle-ground; and beyond,
set on the brow of one of these hills like a diadem, is all that
remains of the Temple of Mysteries. Broken columns are there,
pedestals, fragments of proud arches, now shattered and trodden under
foot. Its majesty is that of a sleeping goddess, so still, so
tranquil, proud even, in its ruins; yet in such utter silence it lies.
In the cracks of the marble floors, in the crannies of the walls,
springing from beneath the broken statue, voiceless yet persistent,
grow scarlet poppies--the sleep flowers of the world, yielding to this
yellowing Temple of Mysteries the quieting influence of their
presence.

The next day, almost in the spirit of worship, we went to Marathon. If
Salamis was my Holy Grail, then Marathon was my Mecca. We started out
quite early in the morning, with relays of horses to meet us on the
way. It tried to rain once or twice, but it seemed not to have the
heart to spoil my crusade, for presently the sun struggled through the
ragged clouds and shed a hazy half light through their edges, which
completely destroyed the terrible, blinding glare and made the day
simply perfect.

The road to Marathon led through orchards of cherry-trees white with
blossoms, through green vineyards, past groves of olive-trees which
look old enough to have seen the Persian hosts, through groups of
cypress-trees, such noble sentinels of deathless evergreen; through
fields of wild-cabbage blooms, making the air as sweet as the
alfalfa-fields of the West; across the Valanaris by a little bridge,
and suddenly an isolated farmhouse with a wine-press, and
then--Marathon!

"The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea,
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For standing by the Persian's grave,
I could not deem myself a slave!"

Marathon is only a vast plain, but what a plain! It has only a small
mound in the centre to break its smoothness, but what courage, what
patriotism, what nobility that mound covers! It was there, many
authorities say, that all the Athenians were buried who fell at
Marathon, although Byron claims that it covers the Persian dead.

How Greece has always loved freedom! In the Ecole Polytechnique are
three Turkish battle-flags and some shells and cannon-balls from a war
so recent that the flags have scarcely had time to dry or the shells
to cool. What a pity, what an unspeakable pity, that all the glory of
Greece lies in the past, and that the time of her power has gone
forever! Nothing but her brave, undaunted spirit remains, and never
can she live again the glories of her Salamis, her Marathon, her
Thermopylae.

We have seen Athens in all her guises, the Acropolis in all her moods,
at sunrise, in a thunder-storm, in the glare of mid-day, at sunset,
and yet we saved the best for the climax. On the last night we were in
Athens we saw the Acropolis by moonlight. We nearly upset the whole
Greek government to accomplish this, for the King has issued an edict
that only one night in the month may visitors be admitted, and that is
the night of the full moon. But I had returned to Athens with this one
idea in my mind, and if I had been obliged to go to the King myself I
would have done so, and I know that I would have come away victorious.
He never could have had the heart to refuse me.

It is impossible. I utterly abandon the idea of making even my nearest
and dearest see what I saw and hear what I heard and think what I
thought on that matchless night. There was just a breath of wind. The
mountains and hills rose all around us, Lykabettos, Kolonos--the home
of Sophocles--Hymettos, and Pentelikon with its marble quarries, made
an undulating line of gray against the horizon, while away at the left
was the Hill of Mars. How still it was! How wonderful! The rows of
lights from the city converged towards the foot of the Acropolis like
the topaz rays in a queen's diadem. The blue waters of the harbor
glittered in the pale light. A chime of bells rang out the hour,
coming faintly up to us like an echo. And above us, bathed, shrouded,
swimming in silver light, was the Parthenon. The only flowers that
grow at the foot of the Parthenon are the marguerites, the
white-petaled, golden-hearted daisies, and even in the moonlight these
starry flowers bend their tender gaze upon their god.

I leaned against one of the caryatides of the Erechtheion and looked
beyond the Parthenon to the Hill of Mars, where Paul preached to the
Athenians, and I believe that he must have seen the Acropolis by
moonlight when he wrote, "Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear,
we thought it good to be left in Athens _alone_!"

What a week we have had in Athens! If I were obliged to go home
to-morrow, if Greece ended Europe for me, I could go home satisfied,
filled too full of bliss to complain or even to tell what I felt. I
have lived out the fullest enjoyment of my soul; I have reached the
limit of my heart's desire. Athens is the goddess of my idolatry. I
have turned pagan and worshipped.

In all my travels I have divided individual trips into two
classes--those which would make ideal wedding journeys and those which
would not. But the greatest difficulty I have encountered is how to
get my happy wedded pair over here in order to _begin_. I have not the
heart to ask them to risk their happiness by crossing the ocean, for
the Atlantic, even by the best of ships, is ground for divorce (if you
go deep enough) in itself. I have not yet tried the Pacific, but I am
told that, like most people who are named Theodosia and Constance and
Winifred, the Pacific does not live up to its name. However, if I
could transport my people, chloroformed and by rapid transit, to
Greece, I would beg of them to journey from Athens to Patras by rail;
and if that exquisite experience did not smooth away all trifling
difficulties and make each wish to be the one to apologize first, then
I would mark them as doomed from the beginning, by their own insensate
and unappreciative natures, as destined to finish their honeymoon by
separate maintenance and alimony.

How I hate descriptions of scenery! How murderous I feel when the
conventional novelist interrupts the most impassioned love-scene to
tell how the moonlight filtered through the ragged clouds, or how the
wind sighed through the naked branches of the trees, just as if
anybody cared what nature was doing when human nature held the stage!
And yet so marvellous is the fascination of Greece, so captivating the
scenes which meet the eye from the uninviting window of a plain little
foreign railroad train, that I cannot forbear to risk similar
maledictions by saying that it is too heavenly for common words to
express.

Now, I abominate railroads and I loathe ships. The only things I
really enjoy are a rocking-chair and a book. But much as I detest the
smell of car-smoke, and to find my face spotted with soot, and ill as
it makes me to ride backward, I would willingly travel every month of
the year over the road from Athens to Patras. The mountains are not so
high as to startle, the gulf not so vast as to shock. But with
gentleness you are drawn more and more into the net of its fascination
until the tears well to your eyes and there is a positive physical
ache in your heart.

Greece is considerate. I have seen landscapes so continuously and
overpoweringly beautiful that they bored me. I know how to sympatize
with Alfred Vargrave when he says to the Duc de Luvois:

"Nature is here too pretentious; her mien
Is too haughty. One likes to be coaxed, not compelled,
To the notice such beauty resents if withheld.
She seems to be saying too plainly, 'Admire me;'
And I answer, 'Yes, madam, I do; but you tire me.'"

Not so with Greece, for when you become almost intoxicated with her
wonderful blues and greens and purples, and you move your head
restlessly and beg a breathing-space, she compassionately recognizes
your mood and lowers a silver veil over her brilliant beauty, so that
you see her through a gauzy mist, which presently tantalizes you into
blinking your tired eyes and wondering what she is so deftly
concealing. It is like the feeling which assails you when you see a
veiled statue. You long for the sculptor to chisel away the marble
gauze and reveal the features. And when the craving becomes
intolerable, lo! Greece, the past mistress of the art of beauty,
grants your desire, and with the regal gift of a goddess brings your
soul into its fruition. Cleopatra would have tantalized and left your
heart to eat itself out in hopeless longing. But Cleopatra was only a
queen; Venus was a goddess.

Names which were but names to you before become living realities now.
We are crossing the Attic plain, and from that we find ourselves in
the Thracian plain. What girl has not heard her brother spout
concerning these names, famous in Greek history? Then we are in
Megara, on the lovely blue Bay of Salamis. From Megara the Bay of
Salamis becomes Saronic Gulf, and after an hour or two of its
unspeakable beauty we cross over to Corinth and find, if possible,
that the blues of the Gulf of Corinth are even more sapphire, that its
purples are even more amethyst, that its greens are more emerald than
the blues and purples and greens of Salamis.

From Corinth the road skirts the sea, and all these white plains are
devoted to the drying of currants. At Sikyon, called "cucumber town,"
but originally, with the mystic beauty of the ancient Greeks, called
"poppy town," the American school at Athens has made some wonderful
excavations. It has discovered the supports of the stage of the famous
theatre there. Then, still with the sea before us, we are at Aegium, a
name full of memories of ancient Greece. It has olive, currant, grape,
and mulberry plantations, and lies shrouded and bedded in beauty and
romance. There, over a high iron bridge, we cross a rushing mountain
torrent and are at Patras, in the moonlight, with our big ship waiting
to take us across the Adriatic Sea to Brindisi.

It was with real pain that we left Greece. I would like to go back
to-morrow. But there were reasons for reaching Italy without further
delay, and we hurried through Corfu with only a day there to see its
loveliness, instead of a week, as we would have liked. The Empress of
Austria's villa lies tucked up on a hill-side, in a mass of orange,
lemon, cypress, and magnolia trees. Such an enchanting picture as it
presents, and such wonderful beauty as it encloses. But all that is
modern. What fascinates me in Corfu is that opposite the entrance to
the old Hyllaean harbor lies the isle of Pontikonisi (Mouse Island),
with a small chapel and clergy-house. Tradition says that it is the
Phaeacian ship which brought Ulysses to Ithaka, and which was
afterwards turned into stone by the angry Poseidon (Neptune). The
brook Kressida at the point where it enters the lake is also pointed
out as the spot where Ulysses was cast ashore and met the Princess
Nausicaa. A seasick sort of name, that!

I feel an inexplicable delight in letting my imagination run riot in
the Greek traditions of their gods and goddesses. Their heroes are
more real to me than Caesar and Xerxes and Alexander. And Hermes and
Venus and the dwellers of Olympus have been such intimate friends
since my childhood that the scenes of their exploits are of much more
moment to me than Waterloo and Austerlitz. I cannot forbear laughing
at myself, however, for my holy rage over Greek mythology, as founded
upon no better ground than that upon which Mark Twain apologized for
his admiration for Fenimore Cooper's Indians, for he admitted that
they were a defunct race of beings which never had existed!

We arrived at Brindisi at four o'clock in the morning. Brindisi at
four o'clock in the morning is not pleasant, nor would any other city
be on the face of this green footstool. We were in quarantine, and we
had to cope with a cross stewardess, who declared that we demanded too
much service, and that she would _not_ bring us our coffee in bed, and
who then went and did it like an angel, so that we patted her on the
back and told her in French that she was "well amiable," although at
that hour in the morning we would have preferred to throttle her for
her impertinence, and then to throw her in the Adriatic Sea as a neat
little finish. Such, however, is our diplomatic course of travel.

We walked in line under the doctor's eye, and he pronounced us
sanitary and permitted us to land. We were four hours late, but we
scalded ourselves with a second cup of coffee and tried for the
six-o'clock train for Naples, missed it, sent a telegram to Cook to
send our letters to the train to meet us, and then went back to the
ship to endure with patience and commendable fortitude the jeers of
our fellow-passengers. Virtue was its own reward, however, for soon,
under the rays of the rising sun, which we did not get up to see, and
did not want to see, there steamed into the harbor alongside of us the
P. & O. ship _Sutly_, six hours ahead of time (did you ever hear of
such a thing?), bearing our belated friends, the Jimmies, from
Alexandria. They had been booked for the _China_, which was wrecked,
so the _Sutly_ took her passengers. The Jimmies had bought their
passage for Venice, but we teased them to throw it up and come with
us, and such is our fascination that they yielded. The love which
reaches the purse is love indeed. So in a fever of joy we all caught
the nine-o'clock train for Naples.

They have a sweet little way on Italian railroads of making no
provision for you to eat. We did not know this, and our knowledge of
Italian was limited to _Quanto tempo?_ (How much time?) and _Quanto
costa?_ (How much is it?) So we punctuated the lovely journey among
the Italian hills, and between their admirable waterways, by hopping
off the train for coffee every time they said "Cinque minuti." It was
like a picnic train. Half the passengers were from the P. & O., and
knew the Jimmies, and the other half were from our Austrian Lloyd, and
knew us, so it was perfectly delicious to see every compartment door
fly open and everybody's friend appear with tea-kettles for hot water
in one hand and tea-caddies in the other, and to see people who hated
boiled eggs buying them, because they were about all that looked
clean; and to see staid Englishmen in knickerbockers and monocles with
loops of Italian bread over each tweed arm, and in both hands flasks
of cheap red Italian wine--oh, so good! and only costing fifty
centimes, but put up in those lovely straw-woven decanters which cost
us a real pang to fling out of the window after they were emptied. And
it was anything but conventional to hear one friend shout to another,
"Don't pay a lira for those mandarins; I got twice that many from this
pirate!" And then the five minutes would be up, and the guard would
come along and call "Pronto," which is much prettier than "All
aboard," but which means about the same thing; and then two
ear-splitting whistles and a jangling of bells, and the doors would
slam, and we were off again.

It was moonlight when we skirted the Bay of Naples--the same moonlight
which lighted the Acropolis for us at Athens, which shed its silver
loveliness upon the Adriatic Sea, where we had no one whose soul
shared its beauty with us, and which we found again glittering upon
the Bay of Naples. We stood at the car-window and watched it for an
hour, for all that time our train was winding its way around the shore
into Naples.

That curve of the shore, that sheet of rippling sapphire, the glint of
the moon on the water, the train trailing its slow length around the
bay, are associated in my mind with one of those emotional upheavals
which travellers must often experience in passing from one phase of
civilization to another. It marks one of the mile-stones in my inner
life. I was leaving the East, the pagan East, with its mysterious
influence, and I was getting back to Cooks' tourists and Italy. My
mind was in a whirl. Which was best? Why should I so love one, and why
did the other bore me? I was afraid to follow the yearnings of my own
soul, and yet I knew that only there lay happiness. To make up one's
mind to be true to one's love--even if it be only the love of
beauty--requires courage. And the trial of my bravery came to me on
that curve of the Bay of Naples. I dared. I am daring now. I am still
true to the Orient.

As I look back I remember that the phrase, "See Naples and die," gave
me the hazy idea that it must be very beautiful, but just how I did
not know, and did not particularly care. I knew the bay would be
lovely; I only hoped it would be as lovely as I expected. Celebrated
beauties are so apt to be disappointing. I imagined that all
Neapolitan boys wore their shirt-collars open and that a wavy lock of
coal-black hair was continually blowing across their brown foreheads.
That eternal porcelain miniature has maddened me with its omnipresence
ever since I was a child. But aside from these half-thoughts and dim
expectations I had no hopes at all. I was prepared to be gently and
tranquilly pleased; not wildly excited, but satisfied; not happy, but
contented with its beauty. But I have found more. The bay is more
lovely than I anticipated, and I have discovered that Italian hair is
not coal-black; it begins to be black at the roots, and evidently had
every intention of being black when it started out, but it grew weary
of so much energy, and ended in sundry shades of russet brown and
sunburned tans. It generally has these two colors, black and tan, like
the silky coat of a fine terrier, and it waves in lovely little
tendrils, and is much prettier than hair either all black or all
brown.

But I am ahead of my narrative. I am trying to decide whether Naples
is more beautifully situated than Constantinople. Constantinople,
being Oriental, fascinates me more. Western Europe begins to seem a
little tame and conventional to me, because the pagan in my nature is
so highly developed. I detest civilization except for my own selfish
bodily comfort. When I eat and sleep I want the creature comforts.
Otherwise I love those thieving Arab servants in Cairo (who would
steal the very shoes off your feet if you dropped off for your forty
winks) because of their uncivilization and unconventionality.
Civilization has not yet spoiled them. I bought rugs in Cairo, and
often when I went unexpectedly into my room I found my Arab
man-servant on his knees studying their patterns and feeling their
silkiness. I had everything locked up, or perhaps he would have made
worse use of his time; but somehow the childishness of the East
appeals to me.

Constantinople is so delightfully dirty and old. Mrs. Jimmie sniffs at
me because I can stop the peasants who lead their cows through the
streets of Naples, and because I can drink a glass of warm milk; Mrs.
Jimmie wants hers strained. But if I can eat "Turkish Delight" in
Constantinople, buying it in the bazaars, seeing it cut off the huge
sticky mass with rusty lamp-scissors, perhaps dropped on the
dirt-floor, and in a moment of abstraction polished off on the Turk's
trousers and rolled in soft sugar to wrap the real in the ideal--if I
can cope with _that_ problem, surely a trifle like drinking unstrained
milk, with the consoling satisfaction of stopping the carriage in an
adorable spot, with the blue waters of the bay curling up on its shore
down below on the right, and a sheer cliff covered with moss and
clinging vines and surmounted by a superb villa on the left, is
nothing. For to eat or to drink amid such romantic surroundings, even
if it were unstrained milk, was an experience not to be despised.

Yet here are two cities situated like amphitheatres upon the convex
curve of two ideally beautiful harbors. How do you compare them? Each
according to your own temper and humor. You have seen hundreds of
colored photographs both of Naples and Constantinople. But of the two
you will find only Naples exactly like the pictures. Everybody agrees
about Naples. People disagree delightfully about Constantinople. Some
can never get beyond the dirt and smells and thievery. Some never get
used to the delicious thrills of surprise which every turn and every
corner and every vista and every night and every morning hold for the
beauty-lover. Nothing could be more heterodox, more _bizarre_, more
unconventional than Constantinople scenes. Nothing could be more
orthodox than the views of Naples. To be sure, poets have written
reams of poetry about it, travellers have sent home pages of
rhapsodies about it, tourists have conscientiously "done" the town,
with their heads cocked on one side and their forefingers on a
paragraph in Baedeker; but just _because_ of this, _because_ everybody
on earth who ever has been to Naples--man or woman, Jew or Gentile,
black or white, bond or free--_has_ wept and gurgled and had hysteria
over its mild and placid beauty, is one reason why I find it somewhat
tame. Italian scenery seems to me laid out by a landscape-gardener.
Its beauty is absolutely conventional. Nobody will blame you if you
admire it. To rave over it is like going to church--it is the proper
thing to do. People will raise their eyebrows if you don't, and watch
what you eat, and speculate on your ancestry, and wonder about your
politics.

The beauty of Italy is so proper and Church of England that you are
looked upon as a dissenter if you do not rhapsodize about it. But it
disappoints me to feel obliged to follow the multitude like a flock of
sheep and to take the dust of those feeble-minded tourists who have
preceded me and set the pace. There is nothing in the scenery of all
Italy to shock your love of beauty from the staid to the original.
There is nothing to give your sensitive soul little shivers of
surprise. There is nothing to make you hesitate for fear you ought not
to admire; you _know_ you ought. You feel obliged to do so because
everybody has done it before you, and you will be thought queer if you
don't. There is a gentle, pretty-pretty haze of romance over Italian
scenery which is like reading fairy-tales after having devoured
Carlyle. It is like hearing Verdi after Wagner. The East has my real
love. I find that I cannot rave over a pink and white china
shepherdess when I have worshipped the Venus of Milo.

XIII

NAPLES

The point of view is always the pivot of recollection. How ought one
to remember a place? There are a dozen ways of enjoying Naples, and
twenty ways of being miserable in America. Or turn it the other way,
it makes no difference. It depends upon one's self and the state of
the spleen. Before I came to Europe I remember often to have been
disgusted with persons who recalled Germany by its beer and Spain by
its fleas, or those who said: "Cologne! Oh yes; I remember we got such
a good breakfast there."

Ah, ha! It is so easy to sniff when one is mooning in imagination over
cathedrals, but I have since taken back all those sniffs. I did not
realize then the misery of standing on one foot all the morning in
tombs, and on the other all the afternoon in museums, and then of
going home to sleep on an ironing-board. Now I, too, think gratefully
of the Bay of Naples as being near that good bed, and of the Pyramids
as being near the excellent table of Shepheard's. Why not? Can one
rave over Vesuvius on an empty stomach, or get all the beauty out of
Sorrento with a backache? One must be well and have good spirits when
one travels. It is not so essential merely to be comfortable, although
that helps wonderfully. But even to get soaking wet could not utterly
spoil the road to Posilipo. What a heavenly drive! Although I think
with more fondness of scaling the heights of Capri in a trembling
little Italian cab, not because both views were not divinely
beautiful, but because when in Capri my clothes were not damply
sticking to me, and I had no puddle of water in each shoe. As I look
back I believe I could write specific directions from personal
experience on "How to be Happy when Miserable." Jimmie always bewails
the fact that the American girl lives on her nerves. "Goes on her
uppers" is his choice phrase. Nevertheless, it pulled us through many
a mental bog while travelling so continuously.

Therefore, from a dozen different recollections of Naples, eleven of
which you may read in your red-covered Baedeker, or _Recollections of
Italy_, or _Leaves from my Note-Book_, or _Memories of Blissful
Hours_, and similar productions, I have most poignantly to remember
our shopping experiences in Naples. But before launching my battleship
I owe an apology to the worshippers of Italy. I can appreciate their
rapturous memories. I share in a measure their enthusiasm. To a
certain temper Italy would be adorable for a honeymoon or to return to
a second or a fifth time. But it is not in human nature, after having
come from Russia, Egypt, and Greece, to have one's pristine enthusiasm
to pour out in torrents over the ladylike beauty of Italy, because
these other countries are so much more unfrequented, more pagan, and
more fascinating. But in daring to say that, I again pull my forelock
to Italy's worshippers.

To begin with, we were robbed all through Italy; not robbed in a
common way, but, to the honor of the Italians let me say, robbed in a
highly interesting and somewhat exciting manner.

Somebody has said, "What a beautiful country Italy would be if it were
not for the Italians!" We are used to having our things stolen, and to
being overcharged for everything just because we are Americans, but we
are not used to the utter brigandage of Italy. On the Russian ship
coming from Odessa to Constantinople some of the second-cabin
passengers got into our state-rooms during dinner and went through our
hand-baggage, which we had left unlocked, and stole my ulster. And, of
course, in Constantinople they warned us not to trust the Greeks, for
it is their form of comparison to say, "He lies like a Greek," while
in Greece the worst thing they can say is that "He steals like a
Turk." In Cairo it was not necessary to warn us, for everybody knows
what liars and thieves Arabs are. Not a day went by on those donkey
excursions on the Nile that the men did not have their pockets picked.
The passengers on the _Mayflower_ lost enough silk handkerchiefs to
start a haberdasher's shop, and every woman lost money. In Cairo,
whether you go to the bazaars or to a mosque to see the faithful at
their prayers, your dragoman tells you not to have anything of value
in your pockets, and not to carry your purse in your hand.

But we had not even got through the custom-house at Brindisi, when
Gaze's man recommended us to have our trunks corded and sealed, for
they are sometimes broken open on the train. We thought this rather a
useless precaution, but Jimmie has travelled so much that he made us
do it. It seems that the King has admitted that he is powerless to
stop these outrages, and so he begs foreign travellers to protect
themselves, inasmuch as he is unable to protect them.

We stayed at the smartest hotel in Naples, but we had not been there
two days before Jimmie's valises were broken open, and all his studs
and forty pounds in money were stolen. That frightened us almost to
death, but something worse happened. One day at three o'clock in the
afternoon my companion was sitting in her room writing a letter, and
she happened to look up just in time to see the handle of the door
turn slowly and softly.

Then the door opened a crack, still without a sound, and a man with a
black beard put in his head. As he met her eyes fixed squarely upon
him he closed the door as silently as a shadow. She hurried after him
and looked out, and ran up the corridor peering into every possible
corner, but no man could she see. He had disappeared as completely as
if he had been a ghost. She reported it to the proprietor, but he
shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Madam must have imagined it!"

By this time we were all feeling rather creepy. However, as Jimmie
says when we are all tired out and hungry and cross, "Cheer up. The
worst is yet to come."

One day my companion and Mrs. Jimmie and I went to one of the best
shops in all Italy, to buy a ring. Mrs. Jimmie was getting it for her
husband's birthday.

Now, Mrs. Jimmie's own rings are extremely beautiful, and her very
handsomest consists of a band of blue-white matched diamonds which
exactly fills the space between her two fingers, and is so heavy and
so fine that only Tiffany could duplicate it. The band of the ring is
merely a fine wire. To try on Jimmie's ring, Mrs. Jimmie took off all
hers and laid them on the counter. Now, mind you, this was a famous
jeweller's where this happened. But when she had decided to take the
new ring, and turned to put on her own again, lo! this especial ring
was gone. We searched everywhere. We told the clerk, but he said she
had not worn such a ring. This was the first thing which made us
suspect that something was wrong. We insisted, and he reiterated.
Finally, I made up my mind. I said to my companion: "You stand at the
front door and have Mrs. Jimmie stand at the side door. Don't you
permit any one either to enter or leave, while I rush around to Cook's
office and find out what can be done." Both women turned pale, but
obeyed me. One clerk started for the back door, but we called him and
told him that no one was to move until we could get the police there.
Then such a scurrying and _such_ a begging as there was! Would madam
wait just one moment? Would madam permit them to call the proprietor?
(Anybody would have thought it was _my_ ring, for Mrs. Jimmie's calm
was not even ruffled, while _I_ was in a white heat, and all their
impassioned appeals were addressed to me!) I said they could call the
proprietor if they could call him without leaving the room. They
called him in Italian. He came, a little, smooth, brown man, with
black, shoe-button eyes. We explained to him just what had taken
place, Mrs. Jimmie with her back against one door, and my companion
braced against the side door, like Ajax defying the lightning.

He rubbed his hands, and listened to a torrent of excited Italian from
no fewer than ten crazy clerks. Then I stated the case in English. The
proprietor turned to Mrs. Jimmie, and said if madam was so sure that
she had worn a ring, which all his clerks assured him she had not
worn, then, for the honor of his house, he must beg madam to choose
another ring, of whatever value she liked, and it should be a present
from him!

Now, Mrs. Jimmie is a very Madonna of calmness, but at that she
ignited. She told him that Tiffany had been six months matching those
stones, and that not in all his shop--not in the whole of Italy--could
he find a duplicate. At that another search took place, and I, just to
make things pleasant, started for the American ambassador's. (I had
risen a peg from Cook's!) Such pleading! Such begging! Two of the
clerks actually wept--Italian tears. When lo! a shout of triumph, and
from a remote corner of the shop, quite forty feet from us, in a place
where we had not been, under a big vase, they found that ring! If it
had had the wings of a swallow it could not have flown there. If it
had had the legs of a centipede it could not have crawled there. The
proprietor was radiant in his unctuous satisfaction. "It had rolled
there!" Rolled! That ring! It had no more chance of rolling than a
loaded die! We all sniffed, and sniffed publicly. Mrs. Jimmie, I
regret to say, was weak enough to buy the ring she had ordered for
Jimmie in spite of this occurrence. But I think I don't blame her. I
am weak myself about buying things. But _that_ is a sample of Italian
honesty, and in a shop which would rank with our very best in New York
or Chicago. Heaven help Italy!

Italian politeness is very cheap, very thin-skinned, and, like the
French, only for the surface. They pretend to trust you with their
whole shop; they shower you with polite attentions; you are the Great
and Only while you are buying. But I am of the opinion that you are
shadowed by a whole army of spies if you owe a cent, and that for lack
of plenty of suspicion and prompt action to recover I am sure that
neither the Italians nor the French ever lost a sou.

We went into the best tortoise-shell shop in all Naples to buy one
dozen shell hair-pins, but such was the misery we experienced at
leaving any of the treasures we encountered that we bought three
hundred dollars' worth before we left, and of course did not have
enough money to pay for them. So we said to lay the things aside for
us, and we would draw some money at our banker's, and pay for them
when we came to fetch them.

Not for the world, declared this Judas Iscariot, this Benedict Arnold
of an Italian Jew! We must take the things with us. Were we not
Americans, and by Americans did he not live? Behold, he would take the
articles with his own hands to our carriage. And he did, despite our
protests. But the villain drew on us through our banker before we were
out of bed the next morning! I felt like a horse-thief.

However, I confess to a weakness for the overwhelmingly polite
attentions one receives from Italian and French shopkeepers. One gets
none of it in Germany, and in America I am always under the deepest
obligations if the haughty "sales-ladies" and "sales-gentlemen" will
wait on the men and women who wish to buy. I am accustomed to the
ignominy of being ignored, and to the insult of impudence if I
protest; but why, oh, why, do politeness and honesty so seldom go
together?

There is a decency about Puritan America which appeals to me quite as
much as the rugged honesty of American shopkeepers. The unspeakable
street scenes of Europe would be impossible in America. In Naples all
the mysteries of the toilet are in certain quarters of the city public
property, and the dressing-room of children in particular is bounded
by north, east, south, and west, and roofed by the sky.

I have seen Italians comb their beards over their soup at dinner. I
have seen every Frenchman his own manicure at the opera. I have seen
Germans take out their false teeth at the _table d'hote_ and rinse
them in a glass of water, but it remains for Naples to cap the climax
for Sunday-afternoon diversions.

A curious thing about European decency is that it seems to be forced
on people by law, and indulged in only for show. The Gallic nations
are only veneered with decency. They have, almost to a man, none of it
naturally, or for its own sake. Take, for example, the sidewalks of
Paris after dark. The moment public surveillance wanes or the sun goes
down the Frenchman becomes his own natural self.

The Neapolitan's acceptation of dirt as a portion of his inheritance
is irresistibly comic to a pagan outsider. To drive down the Via di
Porto is to see a mimic world. All the shops empty themselves into the
street. They leave only room for your cab to drive through the maze of
stalls, booths, chairs, beds, and benches. At nightfall they light
flaring torches, which, viewed from the top of the street, make the
descent look like a witch scene from an opera.

It is the street of the very poor, but one is struck by the excellent
diet of these same very poor. They eat as a staple roasted
artichokes--a great delicacy with us. They cook macaroni with tomatoes
in huge iron kettles over charcoal fires, and sell it by the plateful
to their customers, often hauling it out of the kettles with their
hands, like a sailor's hornpipe, pinching off the macaroni if it
lengthens too much, and blowing on their fingers to cool them. They
have roasted chestnuts, fried fish, boiled eggs, and long loops of
crisp Italian bread strung on a stake. There are scores of these
booths in this street, the selling conducted generally by the father
and grown sons, while the wife sits by knitting in the smoke and glare
of the torches, screaming in peasant Italian to her neighbor across
the way, commenting quite openly upon the people in the cabs, and
wondering how much their hats cost. The bambinos are often hung upon
pegs in the front of the house, where they look out of their little
black, beady eyes like pappooses. I unhooked one of these babies once,
and held it awhile. Its back and little feet were held tightly against
a strip of board so that it was quite stiff from its feet to its
shoulders. It did not seem to object or to be at all uncomfortable,
and as it only howled while I was holding it I have an idea that,
except when invaded by foreigners, the bambino's existence is quite
happy. Babies seem to be no trouble in Italy, and one cannot but be
struck by the number of them. One can hardly remember seeing many
French babies, for the reason that there are so few to remember--so
few, indeed, that the French government has put a premium upon them;
but in Naples the pretty mothers with their pretty babies, playing at
bo-peep with each other like charming children, are some of the most
delightful scenes in this fascinating Street of the Door.

These bambinos hooked against the wall look down upon curious scenes.
Their mothers bring their wash-tubs into the street, wash the clothes
in plain view of everybody, hang them on clothes-lines strung between
two chairs, while a diminutive charcoal-stove, with half a dozen irons
leaning against its sides, stands in the doorway ready to perform its
part in the little scene. I saw a boy cooking two tiny smelts over a
tailor's goose. The handle was taken off, and the fish were frying so
merrily over the glowing coals, and they looked so good, and the odor
which steamed from them was so ravishing, that I wanted to ask him if
I might not join him and help him cook two more.

In point of fact, Naples seems like a holiday town, with everybody
merely playing at work, or resting from even that pretence. The
Neapolitans are so essentially an out-of-door people and a leisurely
people that it seems a crime to hurry. The very goats wandering
aimlessly through the streets, nibbling around open doorways, add an
element of imbecile helplessness to a childish people.

Did you ever examine a goat's expression of face? For utter asininity
a donkey cannot approach him. Nothing can, except, perhaps, an Irish
farce-comedian.

Beautiful cows are driven through the streets, often attended by the
owner's family. The mother milks for the passing customers, the father
fetches it all lovely and foaming and warm to your cab, and the
pretty, big-eyed children caper around you, begging for a "macaroni"
instead of a "pourboire."

Then, instead of dining at your smart hotel, it is so much more
adorable to drop in at some charming restaurant with tables set in the
open air, and to hear the band play, and to eat all sorts of delicious
unknowable dishes, and to drink a beautiful golden wine called
"Lachrima Christi" (the tears of Christ), and to watch the people--the
people--the people!

XIV

ROME

On Easter Sunday I had my first view of Rome, my first view of St.
Peter's. The day was as soft and mild as one of our own spring days,
and there was even that little sharp tang in the air which one feels
in the early spring in America. The wind was sweet and balmy, yet now
and then it had a sharp edge to it as it cut around a curve, as if to
remind one that the frost was not yet all out of the ground, and that
the sun was still only the heir-apparent to the throne and had not yet
been crowned king. It was the sort of day that one has at home a
little later, when one still likes the feel of the fur around the
neck, while the trees are still bare, when the eager spring wind
brings a tingle to the blood and the smell of rich, black earth and
early green springing things to the nostrils; when the eye is ravished
with the sight of purple hyacinths thrusting their royal chalices up
through the reluctant soil; when the sun-colored jonquil and the
star-eyed narcissus lift their scented heads above the sombre ground,
as if unconscious of the patches of snow here and there, forming one
of the contradictions of life, but a contradiction always welcome,
because it is in itself a promise of better things to come.

Not in the full fruition of a rose-laden June or in the golden days
of Indian summer or the ruddy autumn or the white holiness of
Christmas-tide--not in the beauties of the whole year is there
anything so exhilarating, so thrilling, so intoxicating as these first
days of spring, which always come with a delicious shock of surprise,
before one suspects their approach or has time to grow weary with
waiting. Nothing, nothing in the world smells like a spring wind! It
is full of youth and promise and inspiration. One forgets all the
falseness of its promises last year, all the disappointment of the
past summer, and, charged with its bewildering electricity, one builds
a thousand air-castles as to what _this_ year will bring forth, based
on no surer a foundation than the smell of melting snow and fresh
black earth and yellow and purple spring flowers which are blown
across one's ever-hopeful soul by a breath of eager, tingling spring
wind.

I shall never forget that first drive in Rome on such a day as this,
which brought my own beloved country so forcibly to my mind. There
were rumors of war in the air, and my heart was heavy for my country,
but I forgot all my forebodings as we drew up before the majestic
steps of St. Peter's, for I felt that something would happen to avert
disaster from our shores and keep my country safe and victorious.

St. Peter's had a curious effect upon me. It was too big and too
secular and too boastful for a church, too poor in art treasures for a
successful museum, the music too inadequate to suit me with the echoes
of the Tzar's choir still ringing in my ears, and the lack of pomp
compared to the Greek churches left me with a longing to hunt up more
gold lace and purple velvet. There was nothing like the devoutness of
the Russians in the worshippers I saw in Rome. I stood a long time by
the statue of the Pope. His toe was nearly kissed off, but every one
carefully wiped off the last kiss before placing his or her own,
thereby convincing me of the universal belief in the microbe theory.
The whole attitude of the Roman mind is different. Here it is a
religious duty. In Russia it is a sacrament.

There were thousands of people in St. Peter's, many of whom--the
best-dressed and the worst-behaved--were Americans. It seemed very
homelike and intimate to hear my own language spoken again, even if it
were sometimes sadly mutilated. But I remember St. Peter's that Easter
Sunday chiefly because I had with me a sympathetic companion; one who
knew that St. Peter's was not a place to talk; one who knew enough to
absorb in silence; one, in fact, who understood! Such comprehensive
silence was to my ragged spirit balm and healing.

Beware, oh, beware with whom you travel! One uncongenial person in the
party--one man who sneers at sentiment, one woman whose point of view
is material--can ruin the loveliest journey and dampen one's
heavenliest enthusiasm.

In order to travel properly, one ought to be in vein. It is as bad to
begin a journey with a companion who gets on one's nerves as it is to
sit down to a banquet and quarrel through the courses. The effect is
the same. One can digest neither. People seem to select travelling
companions as recklessly as they marry. They generally manage to start
with the wrong one. I often shudder to hear two women at a luncheon
say, "Why not arrange to go to Europe together next year?" And yet I
solace myself with the thought, "Why not? If you considered! your list
of friends for a month, and selected the most desirable, you would
probably make even a worse mistake, for travelling develops hatred
more than any other one thing I know of; so, in addition to spoiling
your journey, you would also lose your friend--or wish you _could_
lose her!"

George Eliot has said that there was no greater strain on friendship
than a dissimilarity of taste in jests. But I am inclined to believe
George Eliot never travelled extensively, else, without disturbing
that statement, she would have added, "or a dissimilarity in point of
view with one's travelling companion."

It makes no difference which one's view is the loftier. It is the
dissimilarity which rasps and grates. Doubtless the material is as
much irritated by the spiritual as the poetic is fretted by the
prosaic. It is worse than to be at a Wagner matinee with a woman who
cares only for Verdi. One wishes to nudge her arm and feel a
sympathetic pressure which means, "Yes, yes, so do I!" It is awful not
to be able to nudge! Speech is seldom imperative, but understanding
signals is as necessary to one's soul-happiness as air to the lungs.
So Greece with one who has but a Baedeker knowledge of art, or Rome to
one who remembers her history vaguely as something that she "took" at
school, is simply maddening to one who forgets the technicalities of
dates and formulas, and rapturously breathes it in, scarcely knowing
whence came the love or knowledge of it, but realizing that one has at
last come into one's kingdom.

I was singularly fortunate from time to time in discovering these
kindred, sympathetic spirits. I met one party of three in Egypt, and
found them again in Greece, and crossed to Italy with them. It was a
mother and son and a lovely girl. They will never know, unless they
happen across this page, how much they were to me on the Adriatic, and
what a void they filled in Athens.

I found another such at Capri and Pompeii, and those beautiful days
stand out in my mind more for the company I was in than even the
wonders we went to see. That statement is strong but true. Yet my
various other fellow-travellers who were lacking in the one essential
of soul would never believe it, inasmuch as a person without a soul
cannot miss what she never had, and will not believe what she cannot
comprehend. I met one ill-assorted couple of that kind once. They were
two young women--sisters. One had imagination, soul, fire, poetry, and
all that goes to make up genius; but lacking as she did executive
ability and perseverance, her genius was inarticulate. The impersonal
world would never know her beauties, but her friends were rich in her
acquaintance. Her sister was a walking Baedeker--red cover, gold
letters, and all. She was "doing Europe." She read her guide-book, she
saw nothing beyond, and the only time that she really blossomed was
when dressing for _table d'hote_ dinners. I found them at the Grand
Hotel at Rome--one of the most beautiful and well-kept hotels, and one
admirably adapted to display the tourist who tours on principle.

This gorgeous hotel on Easter week is a sight for gods and men. We
engaged our rooms here while we were on the Nile, two months before,
and reminded them once a week all during that time that we were
coming; otherwise, on account of its extreme popularity in the
fashionable world, they might not have been able to hold them for us.
We reached there late on the Saturday evening before Easter, and dined
in our own apartments. But the next day, and indeed until war broke
out and we fled from Rome, the Grand Hotel was as delightful as it was
possible to make a gorgeous, luxurious, and fashionable hotel. The
palm-room, where the band plays for afternoon tea, and where one
always comes for one's coffee, is between the entrance and the grand
dining-room, so that on entering the hotel one comes upon a most
beautiful vista of a series of huge glass doors and lovely green
waving palms, with nothing but a glass roof between one and the blue
Italian sky.

Most of the smart Americans go there, and a very beautiful front they
presented. I had not seen any American clothes for a year, but on
Easter Sunday at luncheon I saw the most bewitching array of smart
street-gowns worn by the inimitable American woman, who is as far
beyond the women of every other race on earth in her selection of
clothes and the way she holds up her head and her shoulders back and
walks off in them as grand opera is above a hand-organ. Even the
French woman does not combine the good sense with good taste as the
American does. And there I found these sisters, each lovely in her own
way--the pretty one listening to the raptures of the poetic one with a
palpable sneer which said plainly: "I not only have no part in these
vain imaginings, but I do not think that you yourself believe them.
You are posing for the world, and I am the only one who knows it. Have
I not been with you everywhere, and have I, with my two eyes, which
certainly are as good as yours--have I seen these things you
describe?" It was pathetic, for the muse of the poet soon felt the
mire in which it daily trod. The fire faded from the girl's eye, her
radiance disappeared, her noble enthusiasms paled, her fantastic and
brilliant imagination dulled, and soon she sat listlessly in our
midst, a tired, patient smile upon her delicate face, while her sister
discoursed volubly upon clothes. Alas, the old fable of the iron pot
and the porcelain kettle drifting down the stream together! At the end
of the journey the iron pot had not even a scratch upon its thick
sides, but the porcelain was broken to pieces. How I longed to take
that wounded imagination, that whimsical wit, under my wing and
explore Rome with her! But circumstances held the two together, and I
took instead my guide, Seraphino Malespina. Seraphino deserves a
chapter by himself. His observations upon human nature were of much
more value to me than his knowledge of Rome, accurate and worthy as
that was. He was the best guide I ever had. I had heard of him, so
when we arrived I simply wrote to him and engaged him by the week. He
took us everywhere, never wasted our money (which is a wonder in a
guide), and, while I may forget some of his dates and statistics, I
shall never forget his shrewdness in understanding human nature. His
disquisitions on the ordinary tourist, and his acute analysis of the
two sisters I have described, were so accurate that I determined then
and there that Seraphino was a philosopher. The interest I took in his
narratives pleased him to such an extent that he was unwearied in
searching out interesting material. I taught him to use the camera,
and he photographed us in the Colosseum and in front of the Arch of
Constantine.

He persuaded me to coax the poet away from her sister one day and to
take her with me instead of my companion. I did so, and to this day I
thank my guide for his wisdom, for once out from under the sister's
depressing influence, that whimsical genius, worthy of being classed
with the most famous of wits, blossomed under my appreciative laughter
like a rose in the sunlight.

We saw, too, the magnificent statue of Garibaldi--a superb thing,
which overlooks the whole city of Rome. We tossed pennies into the
fountain of the Trevi, and drank some of the water, which is a sure
sign, if you wish it at the time you drink, that you will return to
Rome.

It was on the day that we went to Tivoli that I heard the first war
news from America which I regarded final. We were on the Nile when the
_Maine_ was blown up, and all through Egypt and Greece news was slow
to travel. When we got to Italy we were dependent upon London for
despatches. I waited until I received my own papers before I knew the
truth. Finally, on our departure for Tivoli, my American mail was
handed to me, and I found what preparations were being made--that my
brother was going! I remember Tivoli as in a haze of war-clouds.
America arming herself for war once more! Some of my family--my very
own--preparing to go! How much do you think I cared for the Emperor
Hadrian and his villa, which was a whole town in itself, and his
waterfalls and his wonderful objects of art?

At any other time how I would have revelled in the idea of his two
theatres, his schools, his libraries, his statues pillaged from my
beautiful Greece, his philosopher's wall--a huge wall built only for
shade, so that his friends who came to discourse philosophy with him
could walk in its west shadow mornings, and in its east shadow
afternoons; all these things would have driven me wild with
enthusiasm. But on that day I saw instead the Flying Squadron in
Hampton Roads, painted black. I saw the President and his secretaries,
with anxious faces, consulting with their generals; I saw how awful
must be the sacrifice to the country in every way--money, commerce,
health, the very lives of the dear soldiers of _our_ army, who fight
from choice, and not because law compels their enlistment. My
companion ridiculed my anxiety and rallied me on my inattention to
Hadrian. Hadrian! What was Hadrian to me when I thought of the
volunteers in America?

Not two days later war was formally declared, and although Rome was
yet practically unexplored, although we had been there only three
weeks, we rushed post-haste to Paris, spent one day gathering up our
trunks from Munroe's, and left that same night for London.

Once in London, however, we found ourselves blocked. The American Line
steamships had been requisitioned by the government, and were no
longer at our disposal. With changed names they were turned into war
vessels, and few, indeed, were the women who would go aboard them in
the near future. The North German Lloyd promised us the new _Kaiser
Friedrich_, and every place was taken. We went to the Cecil Hotel and
waited. Day after day passed, and the sailing-day was postponed once,
then twice. I was frantic with impatience. The truth was the _Kaiser
Friedrich_ was not quite finished. Evidently it is the same with a
ship as with dress-makers. They promise to finish your gown and send
it home for Thanksgiving, whereas you are in luck if you get it by
Christmas.

The only thing that consoled me was being at the Cecil. To be sure, it
was filled with Americans, but I was not avoiding them then. I had
finished my journeyings. I had got my point of view. I was going HOME!

How I wished for poor Bee! What an awful time she had with me at "The
Insular"! (which, of course, is not its real name; but I dare not tell
it, because it is so smart, and I would shock its worshippers). How
she hated our lodgings! Now she will not believe me when I tell her
that the Cecil is as good as an American hotel; that its elevators
(lifts) really move; that its cuisine is as delicious as Paris; that
its service is excellent. Bee is polite but incredulous. To be sure, I
tell her that the hotel is as ugly as _only_ an English architect
could make it; that the blue tiles in the dining-room would make of it
a fine natatorium, if they would only shut the doors and turn in the
water--nothing convinces her that English hotels are not jellied
nightmares. But as for me, I recall the Cecil with feelings of the
liveliest appreciation. I was comfortable there, for the first time in
England. If it had not been for the war I would have been happy.

The hotels in London which the English consider the best I consider
the worst. If an American wishes to be comfortable let him eschew all
other gods and cleave to the Cecil. The Cecil! I wish my cab was
turning in at the entrance this very minute!

Finally the _Kaiser Friedrich_ burst something important in her
interior, and they gave her up and put on the _Trave_. Instantly there
was a maddened rush for the Liverpool steamer. The Cunard office was
besieged. Within two hours after the North German Lloyd bulletined the
_Trave_ every berth was taken on the _Etruria_. I arrived too late,
so, in company with the most of the _Kaiser Friedrich's_ passengers, I
resigned myself to the _Trave_.

We were eight days at sea, and some of those I remained in my berth. I
was happier there, and yet in spite of private woes I still think of
that delightful captain and that darling stewardess with affection.
The steamship company literally outdid themselves in their efforts to
console their disappointed passengers. They put the town of
Southampton at our disposal, and the _Trave's_ steady and
spinster-like behavior did the rest.

I held receptions in my state-room every day. The captain called every
morning, and so did the charming wife of the returning German
Ambassador, Mr. Uhl. The girls came down and sat on my steamer-trunk,
and told me of the flirtations going on on deck. And every night that
dear stewardess would come and tuck me in, and turn out the light, and
say, "Good-night, fraeulein; I hope you feel to-morrow better."

When the pilot reached us we were at luncheon, and every man in the
dining-room bolted. American newspapers after eight days of suspense!
One man stood up and read the news aloud. Dewey and the battle of
Manila Bay! We did not applaud. It was too far off and too unreal. But
we women wept.

As we drove through the streets of New York I said to the people who
came to meet me, "For Heaven's sake, what are all these flags out for?
Is it Washington's birthday? I have lost count of time!"

My cousin looked at me pityingly.

"My poor child," she said, "I am glad you have come back to God's
country, where you can learn something. We have a war on!"

I gave a gasp. That shows how unreal the war seemed to me over there.
I never saw so many flags as I saw in Jersey City and New York. I was
horrified to find Chicago, nay, even my own house, lacking in that
respect.

But I am proud to relate that two hours after my return--directly I
had done kissing Billy, in fact--the largest flag on the whole street
was floating from my study window.

THE END

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